DIARY - 2 /4/12 - MARCE HOWARD/ ROSE BYGRAVE CD REVIEW
ROSE BYGRAVE & MARCE HOWARD
GREAT OCEAN IMAGERY
"Do you remember Lorne and Kennett River/ golden beaches on the way/
they're all along the coast/ we might make the lighthouse at Cape Otway/
if we drive all day and you can drive the most." - Great Ocean
Road - Rose Bygrave.
It may be
a couple of long decades since Marce, nee Marcia Howard, and Rose Bygrave
strutted their stuff with Goanna in their halcyon days in the eighties.
But the pair used the 36th Port Fairy Folk Festival as launch pad for
their debut duet disc.
The duo began the project in late 2009 - 11 years after Goanna reformed
to record Spirit Returns.
They wrote five songs each and helped flesh out mutual arrangements.
It was released eight years after Howard, now 51, launched her second
solo CD Burning In The Rain at the Cornish Arms in Brunswick.
Former 774-AM evening host Derek Guille helped Marce launch that CD -
and, as a latter day Warrnambool resident, he was at the festival for
this momentous happening.
Goanna jokes ran rampant at diverse gigs during the festival - mostly
by other artists - but the duo highlighted the Griffith Island lighthouse
a time or two.
So it's fitting the disc entrée is the Bygrave song Great Ocean
Road that name checks locales and coastal characters on the picturesque
but equally treacherous byway for casual visitors and locals.
Like many inland Western District raised refugees the singer has soaked
up the tales of those who live and love on the Shipwreck Coast and way
Howard, fifth of seven siblings born at Dennington west of Warrnambool
on the Merri River and one time resident of Barwon Heads, has empathy
with those time travel song sentiments.
The entrée segues into Howard's Looking For You - one of
two tributes to late music buff father Leo who died two months shy of
his 94th birthday on February 20, 2010.
It's an evocative reflection of joyous times - with her patriarch, mother,
brothers and sisters - singing by the mighty Merri that ran past the family
home at the Nestles, now Fonterra, factory at Dennington.
Such family soirees ensure the spirit in Howard's songs, delivered with
immaculate vocals, are highly accessible.
The Bygrave song Universe, inspired by the 2006 Victorian drought
that ravaged her hometown Willaura and environs, is also a tribute to
country life with Marce and brother Damian harmonising.
Alan and Steven Pigram play dobro and ukulele and also provide backing
That family tradition continues on Howard's Willy Wagtail travelogue
as her teenage son Liam Gubbins plays acoustic guitar with Lee Morgan
And, of course, Howard's indigenous dreaming place eulogy Two Sisters
Dreaming where she also adds piano, strings and percussion to accentuate
the duo's harmonic heavenliness.
Christmas just doesn't seem right/ without you here to sing Silent Night/
but I will travel to your heart/ to the manger where the real things are/
your twinkling eyes are my guiding star." - Guiding Star - Marcia
guitar on haunting Bygrave gospel blues song The Distant Child -
one of several featuring fellow coastal singer-songwriter Dave Steel on
dobro and fiddler Matiss Schubert.
The vanquished victim in the song, aged three when she loses her mother,
is a composite of schoolmates of the two singers drawn from their era
at primary schools in Willaura and Dennington.
and Bygrave delve into the childhood traumas suffered by rural raised
families long before grief counselling was accessible and social intervention
activated beyond the big smoke.
Steel also plays mandolin on Bygrave hard times homily All Written
There (on your face) and fiddler Tony O'Neill guests on her title
track Love Makes A Pearl.
Howard's road band drummer Jon Emry and guitarist John Hudson light
up her heartbreak requiem Everything Reminds Me with Sandy
Brady on double bass giving it a Latin lacing.
finishes the disc with its only cover - the late English songwriter Lesley
Duncan's Love Song - a tune she cut as a duet with Sir Elton John
on his 1974 Tumbleweed Connection album.
Another 150 artists, including Olivia Newton-John and David Bowie, cut
the song penned by Duncan, real name Cox, who died at 66 on the Isle of
Mull in Scotland on March 12, 2010.
Duncan released eight solo albums before retiring in 1980 after writing
three songs with Scott Walker for the Walker Brothers and sang back-up
vocals on Pink Floyd's huge selling 1973 album Dark Side Of The Moon.
But the Bygrave-Howard artistic, arguably creative peak, is Marce tune
Guiding Star - the second inspired by late family patriarch Leo.
Here the singer borrows lines from cartoonist Michael Leunig's poem Christmas
in a powerful paean to the annual family celebration without their creator.
It's a sentiment felt by many but rarely expressed with such passion by
a child left behind with a widowed mother.
Bygrave and Howard recorded the album at home studios in Queenscliff and
Warrnambool with Emry's drums added by Lost In Suburbia bassist Peter
Bird at his Yelp studio in Howard's hometown.
Bassist Isaac Barter and previous producer Steve Cooney plays guitar on
OK that's the plot - how does it sound?
It's an organic reflection of the journey of two sisters in song from
their rural roots to national fame and back to where it all started -
country folk music stripped down to bare essentials.
Pure vocals, perfect enunciation and impeccable harmonies ensure these
homespun homilies and modern messages are massaged as they meet on high
at the pass.
/ back to diary